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Why Same-Sex Relationships Matter in “Mass Effect”

Why Same-Sex Relationships Matter in “Mass Effect”  (photo)

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BioWare’s “Mass Effect” titles offer a stunning amount of scale and ambition in the experiences they offer to gamers. The two installments in the sci-fi action RPG series have been space opera of the highest order, and unique in the amount of personal investment it generates in the people who play. That investment starts with the Commander Shepard you make as your avatar. Shepard can be male or female and loyalist camps have sprung up around the actors-Mark Meer and Jennifer Hale, respectively-who give voice to the male and female versions of the character, called BroShep or FemShep by fans.

The investment continues in the agonizing storyline choices you make. Are you a hard-ass, take-no-prisoners Renegade, who lets enemies die even if you could save them? Do you let entire species become extinct? Or do you play as an altruistic Paragon, turning to diplomacy before force and pursuing justice instead of vengeance? The decisions you make ripple outward in the fictional universe, influencing how tertiary characters talk to you and interact with you.

But, the relationships that are arguably the most important of all in “Mass Effect” haven’t shown the kind of depth and openness that the rest of the game has. Romance options in the first two games have skewed heavily to the heteronormative. Shepard could only woo members of the opposite sex in “Mass Effect” and “Mass Effect 2,” with an exception made if you played a female Shepard and wanted to get with another woman. This situation came under fire for being exclusionary, and always seemed a dunderheaded move to avoid controversy.

Not that it’s worked, though. “Mass Effect”‘s handling of sex was the subject of an infamous, fear-mongering Fox News report shortly after the first “ME” game came out.

But the question’s always been why? Why no guy-on-guy? I don’t think prurience or titillation’s ever been the issue, as the groping displayed in “Mass Effect” romances never gets hotter than a PG-13 level. No, the why has always been a more philosophical question. In a wide-open universe where all kinds of races comingle, why isn’t it a romantic option for players to have their avatars involved in whatever relationships they wanted?

Well, we may never know the answer but we do know that that’s changing. Two days ago, Casey Hudson, Executive Producer of the “Mass Effect” series tweeted the following:

Happy to confirm #ME3 supports wider options for love interests incl. same-sex for m&f chars, reactive to how you interact w/them in-game.

Now, character relationships in the “Mass Effect” games carry over so, if players do want to change their orientation of the romantic relationships, there ‘s going to be narrative dissonance between chapters. If your Shepard goes from girls to guys from “ME2” to “ME3,” the writers at BioWare might be hard-pressed to explain how or why Shepard switches teams. One thinks that they’ll likely be up to the task. Most importantly, your Shepard will be able to face the threat of the galaxy-destroying Reapers with the love of someone you feel he deserves. There’s no better reason to save the universe than that.

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Give Back

Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

It’s the final countdown to Christmas and thanks to IFC’s movie marathon all Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, you can revel in classic ’80s films AND find inspiration for your last-minute gifts. Here are our recommendations, if you need a head start:

Musical Instrument

Great analog entertainment substitute when you refuse to give your kid the Nintendo Switch they’ve been drooling over.

Breakfast In Bed

Any significant other or child would appreciate these Uncle Buck-approved flapjacks. Just make sure you’re not stuck on clean up duty.

Cocktail Supplies

You’ll need them to get through the holidays.

Dance Lessons

So you can learn to shake-shake-shake (unless you know ghosts willing to lend a hand).

Comfy Clothes

With all the holiday meals, there may be some…embigenning.

Get even more great inspiration all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC, and remember…

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A-O Rewind

Celebrating Portlandia One Sketch at a Time

The final season of Portlandia approaches.

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GIFs via Giphy

Most people measure time in minutes, hours, days, years…At IFC, we measure it in sketches. And nothing takes us way (waaaaaay) back like Portlandia sketches. Yes, there’s a Portlandia milepost from every season that changed the way we think, behave, and pickle things. In honor of Portlandia’s 8th and final season, Subaru presents a few of our favorites.


Put A Bird On It

Portlandia enters the pop-culture lexicon and inspires us to put birds on literally everything.

Colin the Chicken

Who’s your chicken, really? Behold the emerging locavore trend captured perfectly to the nth degree.

Dream Of The ’90s

This treatise on Portland made it clear that “the dream” was alive and well.

No You Go

We Americans spend most of our lives in cars. Fortunately, there’s a Portlandia sketch for every automotive situation.

A-O River!

We learned all our outdoor survival skills from Kath and Dave.

One More Episode

The true birth of binge watching, pre-Netflix. And what you’ll do once Season 8 premieres.

Catch up on Portlandia’s best moments before the 8th season premieres January 18th on IFC.

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WTF Films

Artfully Off

Celebrity All-Star by Sisters Weekend is available now on IFC's Comedy Crib.

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Sisters Weekend isn’t like other comedy groups. It’s filmmaking collaboration between besties Angelo Balassone, Michael Fails and Kat Tadesco, self-described lace-front addicts with great legs who write, direct, design and produce video sketches and cinematic shorts that are so surreally hilarious that they defy categorization. One such short film, Celebrity All-Star, is the newest addition to IFC’s Comedy Crib. Here’s what they had to say about it in a very personal email interview…


IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Celebrity All-Star is a short film about an overworked reality TV coordinator struggling to save her one night off after the cast of C-List celebrities she wrangles gets locked out of their hotel rooms.

IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Sisters Weekend: It’s this short we made for IFC where a talent coordinator named Karen babysits a bunch of weird c-list celebs who are stuck in a hotel bar. It’s everyone you hate from reality TV under one roof – and that roof leaks because it’s a 2-star hotel. There’s a magician, sexy cowboys, and a guy wearing a belt that sucks up his farts.


IFC: What was the genesis of Celebrity All-Star?

Celebrity All-Star was born from our love of embarrassing celebrities. We love a good c-lister in need of a paycheck! We were really interested in the canned politeness people give off when forced to mingle with strangers. The backstory we created is that the cast of this reality show called “Celebrity All-Star” is in the middle of a mandatory round of “get to know each other” drinks in the hotel bar when the room keys stop working. Shows like Celebrity Ghost Hunters and of course The Surreal Life were of inspo, but we thought it
was funny to keep it really vague what kind of show they’re on, and just focus on everyone’s diva antics after the cameras stop rolling.

IFC: Every celebrity in Celebrity All-Star seems familiar. What real-life pop personalities did you look to for inspiration?

Sisters Weekend: Anyone who is trying to plug their branded merch that no one asked for. We love low-rent celebrity. We did, however, directly reference Kylie Jenner’s turd-raison lip color for our fictional teen celebutante Gibby Kyle (played by Mary Houlihan).


IFC: Celebrity seems disgusting yet desirable. What’s your POV? Do you crave it, hate it, or both?

Sisters Weekend: A lot of people chase fame. If you’re practical, you’ll likely switch to chasing success and if you’re smart, you’ll hopefully switch to chasing happiness. But also, “We need money. We need hits. Hits bring money, money bring power, power bring fame, fame change the game,” Young Thug.


IFC: Who are your comedy idols?

Sisters Weekend: Mike grew up renting “Monty Python” tapes from the library and staying up late to watch 2000’s SNL, Kat was super into Andy Kaufman and “Kids In The Hall” in high school, and Angelo was heavily influenced by “Strangers With Candy” and Anna Faris in the Scary Movie franchise, so, our comedy heroes mesh from all over. But, also we idolize a lot of the people we work with in NY-  Lorelei Ramirez, Erin Markey, Mary Houlihan, who are all in the film, Amy Zimmer, Ana Fabrega, Patti Harrison, Sam Taggart. Geniuses! All of Em!

IFC: What’s your favorite moment from the film?

Sisters Weekend: I mean…seeing Mary Houlihan scream at an insane Pomeranian on an iPad is pretty great.

See Sisters Weekend right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib

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